A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano
History and overview:
“Windows” is one of the “big” Chick Corea tunes that get played on a frequent basis. It’s a jazz waltz with an evocative melody and is probably most famous for being included on the album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, from 1968. In addition to listening to Chick’s recording of the tune, be sure to check out Marian McPartland’s beautiful rendition, which I’ve linked to below.
(for international readers who may not have access to these YouTube links, I’ve indicated the original album names wherever possible so you can listen to them on music streaming services, etc.)
Hubert Laws: Laws’ Cause
Chick Corea: Now He Sings, Now He Sobs
Marian McPartland: Windows
Gary Burton: Like Minds
With Chick Corea on piano
Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
One of the fascinating aspects of “Windows” is how the melody unfolds. Chick starts off with an ascending triad which is immediately followed by a descending leap of a 6th, down to the 9th of the Bm7 chord. This note then falls down a second to complete the melodic “germ” that the whole tune is built from.
After this opening motif, it’s repeated in a kind of simpler version, but without the final note so the melody lingers on the 9th for a measure. It’s a very colorful way to complete the phrase!
That’s all over a Bm7 chord. The second phrase, which begins in m.5, arrives with a change in harmony to a G#m7(b5) chord, which turns out to be the beginning of a iim7(b5)/V7/Im7 progression in F#m. The melodic phrase is a variation of the opening phrase, with a slight extension to the held note in measures 9-12.
Starting in m.17, Chick does something which is very unusual in jazz: he transforms the original melody (in major this time) by the process known as “augmentation.” Classical composers such a J.S. Bach used augmentation in their contrapuntal writing, whereby they would double the length of each note in the melody, thereby s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g it out longer than we heard it before. In Chick’s hands, it sounds wonderful. The change in harmony to EMaj7 here is very colorful too, and the melody uses the Lydian mode which sounds very “Chick.”
In the melody of “Windows,” Corea is playing with motifs in much the same way as he does when improvising. He states a motif, messes around with it a bit, goes on to something else for contrast, develops that for a while, and then comes back to the original idea but over a new harmony and with a different scale.
Following a melody through its various compositional processes can give us a lot of insight into how a great jazz musician’s musical mind works, and give us a model to emulate while we improvise. For even though “Windows” was composed, it contains many of the same melodic elements as a good solo does.
Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”
Further links and resources:
Windows (composition): Wikipedia
The Best Way To Use The Real Book
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